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© Alberto Favaro

EC Representation in Malta

Citizens can participate directly in EU policy-making
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04/04/2012 14:54:02

Sunday 1 April marked the launch of European Citizens' Initiatives. From that day, a million citizens from across Europe can come together on an issue that is important to them, and ask the Commission to do something about it.
In order to launch an initiative, citizens must set up a so-called  ‘citizens' committee’ of at least seven people living in at least seven different member states.

    Citizens can participate directly in EU policy-making

    Then the initiative must be registered with the Commission, in any of the official languages of the Union. The proposed initiative must fall within the scope of the Commission's powers to make proposals and must not be manifestly contrary to the values of the EU.

    Signatures can be collected on paper and/or online. To be eligible to sign up, signatories must be citizens of the European Union and old enough to vote in the European Parliament elections.

    After the validity of the signatures has been confirmed, the promoters of the initiative will be invited to explain their initiative in detail to the Commission and to present it at a public hearing organised at the European Parliament. The Commission will inform the promoters of the action it intends to take, if any, and of its reasons either way.

    Vice-President Šefčovič said: "I am delighted that after all the hard work and long wait, Europeans will finally be able to launch Citizens' Initiatives by requesting their registration on the Commission's website. Personally, I am very excited to see what ideas citizens come up with.

    "This is an unprecedented expansion in participatory democracy. It is a powerful agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens. I hope it will also encourage the development of a genuine European 'demos', as citizens come together across borders to debate issues that are important to all of them."

    Once an imitative is registered, the committee will have 12 months to collect the necessary statements of support from at least seven Member States. The threshold to count as one of those seven Member States is fixed at 750 times the number of MEPs for that Member State. Anyone of voting age for European Parliament elections (currently 18 in all Member States except Austria, where it is 16) can support an initiative. In Malta’s case it needs to be signed by 4,500 citizens.

    The number of statements of support has to be certified by the competent authorities in the Member States. The Commission will then have three months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it. It will meet the organisers so they can explain the issues raised in their initiative in more depth. The organisers will also have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing organised at the European Parliament.

    The Commission will then adopt a Communication explaining its conclusions on the initiative, what action it intends to take, if any, and its reasoning.

    The European Commission has worked hard to make the process as simple as possible for citizens, while ensuring the necessary safeguards are in place so that initiatives which are manifestly abusive, frivolous, vexatious, contrary to European values or outside the scope of the Commission's powers are not registered. Measures are also in place to ensure the data of those supporting initiatives is properly protected.

    The ECI website can be found here.

    Last update: 21/05/2012  |Top